Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Polarization, confirmation bias, and media malpractice

The press claims to hate it, so why are they making it worse?

This article makes a key point about modern marketing which has serious implications for political debate and the health of the republic.

How The Principle Of Triage Can Benefit Your Brand

The second group, can be broadly described as rejecters of the brand. Even heavy spend against this group will have minimal effect, because of the problem of confirmation bias.

This bias, first described in 1954 by the psychologists Albert Hastorf and Hadley Cantril, suggests that we interpret messages through a lens of our existing feelings. So if we dislike a brand, any message will be interpreted negatively, through a lens of cynicism.

Advertising, as a relatively weak force, will struggle to over-turn these misconceptions.
An interesting experiment which shows how this plays out in voters’s minds:

Along with Jenny Ridell I ran an experiment in the UK to understand if the bias was still as powerful today. We surveyed 1,004 nationally representative voters about their views on raising sales tax by a penny to fund 10,000 extra nurses.

The results were then split by political affiliation. The twist was that half the respondents were told it was a Conservative policy and half Labour.

When Labour supporters thought the policy came from Labour there was strong support: 14 percent completely agreed. However, support plummeted to 3 percent when it was described as a Conservative policy.

Similarly, among Tories the policy was four times more popular when it was positioned as coming from their party.

The results show that voters interpret policies through a lens of their feelings for the party. If they dislike a party they’ll interpret any policy through a negative filter.

As can be seen from the scale of the effect this is not an insignificant factor: policy is far less influential than existing party affiliation.
So it appears that once an issue is presented within a red/blue, left/right framework, people become locked into their positions and less susceptible to persuasion.

See additional discussion here:

Changing Minds
This is one more reason why CNN’s “Town Hall” in the wake of the Parkland school shooting was a terrible idea. We had not learned many of the highly relevant facts. CNN made little attempt to provide background information. The ideological framework (“gun grabber” vs. “gun nuts”) ensured that many, if not most, viewers would discount any new information they encountered.

As noted previously, the business model of cable news and internet publishing is a big driver of this High Heat/Low Light “journalism”.

Media's Shifting Business Model
While this sort of programming is good for ratings and cash flow, it seems hazardous to the health of the nation. It increases polarization while at the same time it limits our ability and willingness to understand the complexity of the issues that confront us.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rev. Billy Graham, RIP

A bit of history from David Chappell., A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow

There was more than an abstract parallel between the civil right movement and revivalism. In fact, there was a direct relationship between King and the famous revival leader who was his contemporary, Billy Graham. King and his chief of staff, Wyatt Tee Walker, sought advice from Graham and Graham's staff of tactical experts on how to organize large meetings and build publicity. King appeared onstage in one of Graham's 'crusades' in New York City in August 1957. The two men even traveled to Rio de Janiero together to attend the World Baptist Alliance conference in 1960. Graham, whose audiences were not segregated, often preached against racism
In 1965, in Montgomery Alabama he preached to as many as 18,000 people each night. As Chappell notes, despite George Wallace and Jim Crow laws, he refused to segregate his audiences.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The bizarro world inside the aging leftist brain

Interesting video of a fairly recent academic conference on the Venona code-breaking project.

The Q&A session is illuminating. The questions occilate between two poles:

1. "The Russians meddled in the election."

2. "The FBI framed the Rosenbergs!"
"Julius did nothing wrong."

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Strategic problems and the problem with strategy

This is very good -- succinct and on-point:

Why Strategies Disappointand How to Fix Them

Indeed, it is hard to criticize the concept of strategic planning. That is, of course, until one actually reads what is ultimately produced.
Every organization would benefit if, at the beginning of their strategic planning process, all participants took these two ideas to heart:

A. strategies disappoint because they fail to be succinct, sharp, and substantive.

B. Good strategies also have an edge to them. They should make some people unhappy; when strategies prioritize resources, not everyone comes out a winner.
But, to be honest, many scholars have noted the latter problem in strategy-making. zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in 1969 that large bureaucracies do not have strategiesthey have shopping lists. So it is not as if we did not already know this.

C. [Strategies] fail because leaders are unwilling to make difficult decisionsto focus on one threat as opposed to another, prioritize resources accordingly, and then explain their decisions publiclyat risk of being wrong.

D. The real problem is not process; it is the aversion to making decisive and perhaps irrevocable choices.
Or, to quote Clausewitz:

Courage is of two kinds: courage in the face of personal danger, and courage to accept responsibility, either before the tribunal of some outside power or before the court of one's own conscience.

If we pursue the demands that war makes on those who practice it, we come to the region dominated by the powers of the intellect. War is the realm of uncertainty; three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty. A sensitive and discriminating judgment is called for; a skilled intelligence to scent out the truth.

If the mind is to emerge unscathed from this relentless struggle with the unforeseen, two qualities are indispensable: first, an intellect that, even in the darkest hour, retains some glimmerings of the inner light that leads to truth; and second, the courage to follow the faint light wherever it may lead. The first of these qualities is described by the French term coup d'oeil; the second is determination.
With this in mind we can see that one of the real causes of strategic failure lies in the way we study and teach strategy. In the real world victory is not won by the side with the most elegant strategic concept or the most complex multi-dimensional plan. Rather, winning is more often a matter of avoiding distraction and acting decisively.

As Patton put it:

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.
Gen. George Marshall often admonished his subordinates “Don’t fight the problem, decide it.”

The words he chose are critical. He did not say “solve it.” To solve a problem presupposes “one right answer” or “one best solution”. The search for that one right answer can easily lead to delay and paralysis by analysis.

In the the real world, there sometimes are no good solutions. Only bad, awful, and less bad.

Marshall understood that strategic decisions marked the beginning, not the end of the process. Only after the critical decisions were made could the rest of the organization get on with the vital work of implementation. In almost no case can implementation happen immediately. Usually resources have to be gathered and deployed, men and women trained, etc. etc.

The British Chiefs, especially Sir Alan Brooke, never could seem to understand why the Americans had to have commitments well in advance. They accused us of being rigid and inflexible, not realizing the terrific job of procurement, shipbuilding, troop training and supply necessary to place a million and a half troops in England, with armor, tanks and troop-lift, ready to invade the Continent.
S. E. Morison, Strategy and Compromise


Waiting for our Clausewitz

Clausewitz (II)

Saturday, February 03, 2018

If nothing else, the Nunes memo shows that Sir John Keegan was a wise man

More reporters and editors should follow his example.

As readers, we should probably stop respecting reporters with "great contacts" in the intelligence world. Might be more realistic to view said reporters as arrogant dupes who are being used by the professionals.
As defence correspondent, then defence editor of The Daily Telegraph, i decided that entanglement with intelligence organisations was unwise, having concluded, by that stage of my life, through reading, conversation and a little personal observation, that anyone who mingled in the intelligence world, in the belief that he could make use of contacts thus made, would more probably be made use of, to his disadvantage. I continue to believe that to be the case


Friday, February 02, 2018

Something Trump understands that most of his GOP critics do not

To conclude on a positive note, remember that to succeed in strategy you do not have to be distinguished or even particularly competent. All that is required is performing well enough to beat an enemy. You do not have to win elegantly; you just have to win.
Colin S. Gray, Why Strategy is Difficult"